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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The taxpayers of Cobb County are now on the hook to the Braves for an extra $14 million of transportation and infrastructure improvements the team said the county owed.

Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday, exactly one month before the first pitch at SunTrust Park, to pay the team but didn't know where they'd get the money.

The commission plans to figure out later how to pay for the projects, some of which the team has already completed. The Braves hadn't given the county a deadline, but commissioners promised prompt payment.

This vote puts to rest a contract dispute between the two entities set to bring professional baseball to Cobb County.

"We retain our reputation as an unblemished partner that when we say we're going to do something, we do it," Chairman Mike Boyce said at the meeting.

This $14 million tab dates back to some of the initial stadium discussions nearly four years ago. The Braves -- valued last year at $1.18 billion -- argued that the county had agreed to spend $14 million on transportation improvements.

County officials tried to argue that it had already covered the commitment -- and then some.

As reported in January by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cobb's transportation chief said the county had spent more than $69 million on work near the new ballpark. That was more than the county's fair share, said South Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid, the lone dissenter Tuesday.

The agreement at issue was vague and didn't break down what projects were being done and who was paying for them.

For instance, a list of projects from Sept. 28 didn't mention the more than $4 million in stormwater improvements that appeared on the list approved by commissioners Tuesday.

That approved list includes a $2.2 million credit, leaving $11.7 million the county owes the Braves.

The breakdown goes back to the controversy around the team's move to Cobb and allegations that then chairman Tim Lee had made closed-door deals without approval from the commission or residents.

When Boyce took office in January, the status of the $14 million was "totally unknown," he said after Tuesday's meeting.

It took six weeks to figure out what had been promised to the Braves, he said. Once that was done, Boyce said he tried to bring the discussion out in the open and before the commission. "This is the process I thought we were doing all along, and we never did it," said Boyce, who ran his campaign against Lee on transparency.

Lee has moved on to the Habersham County Chamber of Commerce. When asked about the project list Tuesday, Lee said he didn't know about the $14 million, didn't have a comment and hung up.

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March 15, 2017
 
 
 

 

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